Sleuthing the streets of London
It has been more than a century since the fabled detective tracked down criminals on the foggy, gas-lit streets of London — but visitors to the British capital will have no trouble following in his footsteps. In fact, London is home to more than 300 Sherlock Holmes sites, according to author Thomas Bruce Wheeler in his book The New Finding Sherlock’s London.
So don your deerstalker cap and calabash pipe — and, just to get you started — check out these Sherlock-inspired hot spots.
221b Baker Street, London. The fictional home of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (from about 1881-1904) is now the real-life home of the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Its location at 221b Baker Street in London is considered among the world’s most famous addresses. The museum features a variety of Holmes memorabilia, including a life-size wax character of Holmes’ archenemy, Professor Moriarty.
The first-floor study, styled in Victorian décor, makes it easy to imagine Holmes and Watson relaxing in front of the fire while mulling over a particularly difficult case. And if you stop in the gift shop, you can buy your very own cap, pipe, magnifying glass and walking stick. Nearby, a 9-foot bronze statue of Holmes greets visitors at the Baker Street Underground station.
St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. If you’d like to see where Holmes first met Watson, head to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The building was founded in 1123 and is home to a museum showcasing works of art and medical equipment used in centuries past. It was at a chemical laboratory inside the hospital that Holmes and Watson were introduced to each other in A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887. Nearby is Saint Bartholomew the Great Church, one of London’s oldest churches, serving as a place of worship since around 1140 — and also one of the locations used in the movie. (Other movies filmed here include Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Other Boleyn Girl.)
St. Paul’s Cathedral. VisitBritain, the country’s national tourism agency, recommends a stop at this famous landmark, which also happens to be a key location in the movie Sherlock Holmes and the site of a chase scene on a spiral staircase. (For other movie locations, fans can check out The Freemason’s Hall and Brompton Cemetery in London, as well as The Liverpool Docks in Merseyside, Liverpool, and the Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square, Manchester.)
Guided walking tour of Sherlock Holmes’ London. “It is a hobby of mine,” said Holmes, “to have an exact knowledge of London.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1890.) The guided tour ‘In the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes‘ will take you through Charing Cross, the Strand’s gas-lit alleys, and Covent Garden with its Opera House and colourful market stalls.
Madame Tussauds. The famous wax museum is home to a realistic figure of Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. In addition to viewing the replica of the actor in full Holmes costume, visitors can play with the interactive exhibits in his study.
Simpson’s-in-the-Strand. After all this Sherlock stalking, you’ll want to treat yourself to a lavish Sherlock-inspired feast. Featured in many of Holmes’ mysteries, this classic eating establishment has been a part of the London high society scene since 1828, and, in fact, was a favourite of Conan Doyle. Take in the view of what Watson described as ‘the rushing stream of life on the Strand’. Among its famous guests, the restaurant lists Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone — and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant. If you’re looking for more casual dining, head to the Sherlock Holmes Pub. Here you can fill up on dishes like Homemade Steak & Mushroom in Ale Pie (slow cooked beef and mushrooms in Sherlock ale gravy) and Giant Yorkshire Pudding — or you could opt for what has been referred to Sherlock’s Own Favourite: 8oz sirloin of beef, with grilled tomato, watercress and chunky chips, washed down, of course, with a pint of Sherlock Holmes Ale.
Attracting Sherlock fans from around the world, the pub is filled with Holmes-inspired artifacts including Dr Watson’s old service revolver, original cartoons and the stuffed and mounted head of the Hound of the Baskervilles. The restaurant’s main attraction is a replica of Holmes’ and Watson’s sitting room and study.
Langham Hotel. Conan Doyle, who used to live nearby, was a frequent visitor at this historic hotel on Regent Street. The hotel makes an appearance in several Sherlock Holmes adventures, including A Scandal in Bohemia, where the central character was asked where he was staying, and he replies, “You will find me at The Langham, under the name of the Count Von Kramm.” Check out the website for special Sherlock Holmes packages.
Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel. Located on Baker St, this 4-star hotel offers regular Murder Mystery Evenings featuring interactive mystery and comedy entertainment.
Portsmouth Museum, Conan Doyle collection. And if your journey takes you beyond the streets of London, Sherlock fans may want to check out the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, which was bequeathed to the city of Portsmouth by Richard Lancelyn Green, a leading collector of Conan Doyle memorabilia. The collection includes books, documents and objects connected to Holmes and the life of his creator.
ON THE WEB
Check out VisitBritain.com for more tourist destinations and itineraries relevant to Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.